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Monday, April 07, 2014

A Great Way to Wrap up Fifty Years - Madama Butterfly at the Edmonton Opera

Last Thursday I was very lucky to take in the Media Dress for Madama Butterfly with the Edmonton Opera at the Jubilee Auditorium.  I say very lucky because it was truly a wonderful show. I am never sure about how I will connect to Opera because I do not know it  or understand it as well as I do musical theatre, but this one really pulled me in.  The piece rests heavily on the shoulders of Cio-Cio-San (Butterfly) played by Anne Sophie Deprels and she is simply marvelous.  Her voice is gorgeous, she looks perfect and she IS Butterfly.  It was truly some of the finest acting I have ever seen in an opera.  Always present and clear in her choices and truly mesmerizing. One of the biggest challenges for any actor is to stay present during long periods of silence, but Duprels manages this exquisitely as she waits for the return of Pinkerton (Luciano Ganci).  It's a long scored section with vocals from an off-stage ensemble (Coro a bocca chiusa - Humming Chorus), but Duprels holds us in her hand as she goes from hope to distress to resignation.  I think I was even holding my breath for part of it.

The whole cast is brilliantly committed to supporting her.  Ganci brings a likability to the crass Pinkerton.  You can see why she would fall for him, despite his shallowness.  He has charisma and a gorgeous voice and commits fully to the slightly abhorrent character.  Margaret Thompson, as Suzuki, gives a layered performance that is thoughtful and Il cannone del porto! ("The cannon at the harbor!" - The Flower Duet) was one of my favorite scenes.  The two women's voices merge so beautifully.  As Sharpless, John Fanning was also very strong.  He demonstrates apology for his countryman's actions so honestly.

I was so satisfied with this show.  The entire cast seemed committed to the story and it was cohesive and tight. I was a little confused by some of the set elements as I'm not sure if the little mirrors on the front panels worked, but the cast committed to what was there and made it work. I thought a lot about Miss Saigon both during and after, since I hadn't realized that Madama Butterfly was the source material.  I think Puccinni made a stronger choice by making Pinkerton so shallow, than Schonberg and Boublil did with Chris in Miss Saigon.  It felt much more honest in that respect.

All in all a lovely night - see, I was lucky!

Madama Butterfly has two more performances on April 8th and 10th.  Tickets are available online here or you can call 780-429-1000.

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